First Christian Church has a piano and classrooms that were hardly used during the week. Now they’re being used to create a wild rumpus.
Youngsters in the church’s After School Arts Program will present their version of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” at 2 p.m. Sunday in the church sanctuary. The entire community is invited to attend.
The program started in February and is held at 3:30 p.m. every Wednesday.
“We have 50 children in kindergarten through fifth grade from George Nettels Elementary School,” said Ruth Reveal, program director. “This is kind of a pilot program. The children come in, have a snack donated by congregation members, then have art, music and drama rotations.”
Reveal said that people from the congregation and the community lead the rotation sessions, including quite a few Pittsburg State University students.“For the first half of the program, about seven weeks, we did projects that whoever was leading came up with,” she said. “Then, for the second half, we decided to do ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. We’re using the book for the script and an elementary teacher, Lori Pommier, had written some music for it.”
Pommier, who played piano during a Wednesday rehearsal, said she put the music together while she was teaching at Arma.
“This was the year that the movie came out, and quite a few of the kids had seen the movie and liked it,” she said. “It’s all borrowed melodies.”
Youngsters portraying wild things have been making parts of their own costumes, including paper claws and papier mache horns which Reveal attached to headbands.
“The older kids worked on a big set piece in the sanctuary,” Reveal said.
She said that the performance will last about 15 minutes.
“Then people can look at the artwork the children have made and refreshments will be served,” Reveal said.
School will be ending soon, but the director hopes the program will continue next year.
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“The kids have enjoyed it and it seems like we have fulfilled a big need in the community,” she said.
Christa Weber, George Nettels music teacher, said that her students have received several benefits from participating in the Art After School program.
“It gives them social skills to work with one another, creative opportunities to use their imagination, opportunities to express themselves through the arts,” she said. “It also gives them an opportunity to hang out with their friends and have fun in a safe environment.”
Rev. Arensman credits Chuck Peterson with having the vision, around three years ago, of using the church’s piano and classrooms during the week, possibly for the purpose of teaching music.
“About this time last year Chuck and I had a talk about that vision,” Rev. Arensman said. “One of my visions is about raising up music in Pittsburg, and I’ve been involved in music since I came to Pittsburg. Why not start with the kids? Even if they don’t learn to sing or play an instrument, they can learn to enjoy music. We thought about starting it with one day a week with students from George Nettels Elementary School, which is just next door to us.”
He said that Peterson talked with Dr. Craig Fuchs of the PSU music department, and he felt it would be a great opportunity for music education students to get some teaching experience.”
However, a required Wednesday rehearsal, held at the same time as the Art After School Program, made it difficult for many PSU music students to participate.
“Dr. Fuchs then went to the director of the art education program, who jumped on the idea,” Rev. Arensman said. “He also recruited Ruth Reveal, who was in England at the time, as director. As glorious as he described her, she has been beyond that. We had never dreamed of getting somebody that capable to join this.”
He also never dreamed of getting so many participants in the program.
“I thought we might get 15 or 20 kids signed up,” Rev. Arensman said. “Christa Weber put a registration out at George Nettels and we got 40 kids in the first week. By the cut-off date we had 50.”
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So yes, the program will be offered again.
“We plan to crank it up at the start of school and see how it goes,” Rev. Arensman said.